The much-debated reconstruction of part of Sixth Avenue Northwest was approved by the Fort Dodge City Council Monday.
The council voted 4-2 to hire Hovey Construction of Fort Dodge to redo that road between Second and Third streets northwest at a cost of $304,158.50. The work is to be done by the end of this year.
Councilmen Dean Hill, Robert ''Barney'' Patterson, Mark Taylor and Don Wilson voted yes. Councilmen Kim Alstott and Dave Flattery voted no. Councilman Andy Fritz was absent.
That section of Sixth Avenue Northwest is on a steep hill and just one house faces it. However, Taylor, who represents the 1st Ward where the street is located, and residents who live close to the street have argued that it is a major thoroughfare in the Hillcrest neighborhood.
''That street is instrumental in getting from one part of the neighborhood to another part of the neighborhood,'' Sharon Hickey, who represented the 1st Ward on the council for 10 years, said Monday.
Taylor has repeatedly said that the residents of 80 houses on the top of the hill depend on the street.
However. last year the council's Engineering and Streets Committee recommended vacating the street. At the time, the cost of rebuilding the street was estimated at $260,000. That cost estimate later swelled to $350,000.
Last month, that committee recommended postponing action so that engineers could take traffic counts and study travel patterns in the neighborhood, That recommendation was set aside by the full council on Aug. 27.
Before the council voted Monday, Hickey and another former 1st Ward council representative, Doug Laird, defended the importance of the street. Laird attacked the notion of vacating it.
''If you start closing streets, you are setting a precedent of who gets a street and who doesn't,'' he said.
Laird said he believed some people in city government are planning to spend the $300,000 on other streets elsewhere in the city.
''I know what goes on behind closed doors,'' he said. ''I used to sit on this council.''
That comment was immediately criticized by Steve Gibson, who was one of three residents who spoke in opposition to awarding the contract.
''I hope that this council and this community can put to rest this notion that things go on behind closed doors,'' he said.
Gibson asked the council to develop a plan for fixing every street in town.
Gibson, who ran for council in 2011, and the others who spoke against the contract said they had no doubt Sixth Avenue Northwest needs to be repaired. He and another former council candidate, Jeff Halter, said they objected to the seemingly haphazard way the project was advanced.
Another opponent, Greg Wells, said he believed the project should be paid for with assessments added to the property tax bills of nearby residents.
When the council debated the proposed contract. Flattery said he doesn't view the project as a priority.
Taylor said he's opposed to vacating streets.
''If vacating streets is the answer we'll just go every other block and just eliminate them,'' he said.
Patterson defended the contract, saying ''this neighborhood is just as important as any other neighborhood in the city.''
Just one other bid was received for the project. Fort Dodge Asphalt offered a price of $373,320.25.
In addition to rebuilding the street, the work includes installing a new water main and storm sewers and building a retaining wall to protect a garage at the corner of Sixth Avenue Northwest and Second Street Northwest.